AI War 2 v0.871 Released! “More Control, Part 1”

Release notes here.

Hey, we’re finally exiting the beta branch for our updates for the first time since… mid April?  Wow, that was a long stretch, but it was definitely worth it.  Things aren’t perfect yet in the new mechanics set, but we’re getting there and we’re definitely streets ahead compared to the old mechanics from April.

First, let’s talk about what is new in this specific build:

  • Some bugfixes with a few map generation areas.
  • The metal flows screen is now far more functional and useful.
  • 26 new in-game tips have been added to the strategy/tips section, for new and returning players.  If you’re “returning” since the April versions before we went into the beta branch, that will still be useful to you.
  • We recently added a Starting Battlestation for each player in addition to their Starting Fleet, but now we’ve also got a new Starting Support Fleet as well.  This lets you hit the ground running a lot faster.
  • Mark levels from EXP gains are now limited to only some ship types, and not everything in your entire fleet.  But we can customize this in the xml, so we’ll be able to tune this as needed based on feedback.
  • bunch of tech changes have been put in, mostly relating to things that were EXP-upgrade-only before, or in some cases Markless (not upgradeable at all).
  • In some other cases, we took away some techs for things like the Ark centerpieces, and made those solely reliant on EXP mark level upgrades, and for Citadels we made those just all one tech rather than three different ones.
  • In all, there are a lot more techs now, and the importance of science is very much retained compared to recent versions, but there’s also a lot more flexibility surrounding how you do your various upgrades.

Next, let’s quickly note what “more control” is still to come very soon, hence why this is called “part 1” on the release title:

  • I still need to implement that stupid fleet management screen.  Hopefully tomorrow morning, knock on wood.  At least a preliminary version of that.
  • Based on a conversation with AnnoyingOrange, I want to reduce the number of battlestations that are around for you to capture by a LOT, and instead make it so that in the place of most of those you’re getting things that add new turret types that are available at all your command stations.  That’s more in line with the original game, and should be kind of a “best of both worlds” situation, hopefully.  Less fiddling with battlestations, but still tons of turrets everywhere, and still battlestations for some occasions.  Right now there is just too much reliance on battlestations, which feels clunky to use simply because of the volume of them.
  • I also do plan on putting in some sliders in the lobby that will let us control things like the relative strengths and hulls of strikecraft compared to their baseline, to make them more useful alongside frigates and the other big guys, etc.  They’re balanced well relative to one another, but are currently a bit too quick to die in general… but then again everyone has different tastes, so we’ll make this a config thing.
  • There may be more resulting from this conversation, and please feel free to join in.

I’m hoping to get to all those things this week, but we’ll see how it goes since I’m also in the middle of moving house and my office, so it’s a challenging time with so much going on.  But I feel like those are probably the top items that are needed in order to really give the last bits of control back to you that you might feel is lost with the fleets update at the moment.  (And in most respects the fleets update actually already gives you way more control — as well as way more units — but I’m shooting for “universally better” and not “has some unfortunate tradeoffs.”  We’re getting there.)

Now that we have enough of the tutorial-y in-game wiki things in place, it was time to exit beta because what we have in these builds is way more polished and refined than the version from April.  Time to get everyone banging on this and seeing what they think.  And if you’re just sitting down to play the game and enjoy it, I think this is by far the most enjoyable version at the moment despite the ongoing todo list.

So, let’s say you’ve not been paying attention since April and haven’t tried the betas…. what’s new?

  • Well, there’s this whole new concept called fleets, and it replaces control groups as well as making things far more streamlined while giving you more to manage than ever before.  Essentially it makes it easier to manage larger numbers of ships, and makes it FAR easier to subdivide your forces and do multiple things at once, but it also has a lot of customizability (some of which is still to come, but a lot of which is there in the techs already), and both a mixture of hand-designed and procedural elements.
  • There are literally a few dozen new ship types, most of which are interesting variants on prior ship types at the moment, but which also help differentiate your fleets even further from one another.
  • We got rid of the old style of tutorial, and are working on an in-game wiki for specific questions, and then just having things be contextually explained as you see them in other cases, and then later will likely have some mild tutorial-lite things that pop in optionally when you play and give you rewards if you follow them, or no penalties if you opt to skip them.  Basically the idea is to be a bit more modern than the old style of tutorial, and teach you as you play, plus letting you look up things like complex advanced strategies in a concise format in-game rather than having to go to forums or a wiki for those things.
  • The quick starts are all new.
  • The lobby is all new, and vastly easier to use.  There are a few todos left on that as well, but nothing super critical right now.
  • The sidebar has really evolved in order to support fleets and their new way of constructing things, and that includes a completely revised Tech tab.
  • Related, there’s a whole new system of techs that should be really clear as soon as you see it, but basically allows for synergy between similar ships all being upgraded at once.
  • Also related, your fleets gain EXP in battle and level up, although only some of the ships see the benefits of that (primarily the fleet leaders, but also a few others).  Later on there will also be perks that you can choose with each level-up, but that’s coming a bit later on.
  • All 7 marks are now used by both players and the AI, and the marks are more granular and balanced rather than having such giant jumps.
  • The AI has been made a lot smarter, repeatedly.
  • And a bunch of map types have been improved, and map generation times are faster.
  • The planets controlled by the AI are a lot more varied and interesting instead of all being big blobs of everything.  This fits heavily with the new fleets stuff so that you can bring the right fleet for the job.  If you use fewer fleets, you’ll get an EXP bonus.
  • The Lost Spire Frigate faction has been removed from the game, and is now just a core part of the game (and expanded as well) all the time.
  • Command Stations are way more varied and interesting (the player ones).
  • There are a ton of new lobby options that let you really customize your experience without it being overwhelming to see.
  • You can now have as many AIs as you want in the game, and you can even throw them into a civil war if you want to.
  • Ships rallying is gone, as are “space docks” and “starship constructors” and “build queues.”  Instead the fleet leaders now build things directly with the help of factories that are within one hop of them.  And a whole bunch of logistical things that were major pains in the rear previously are thus solved all in one fell swoop.
  • Fleet leaders are now faster in general to move around, which feels more fun.
  • The game has Strike versus Officer fleets, allowing you to choose a more hero-unit-focused type of experience or a more mob-fleet-style experience.  You can either choose that based on what you capture in-game, or you can tweak those things in the lobby some.
  • The economy has been rebalanced several times over, and you can’t shoot yourself in the foot by accident by upgrading a unit anymore.  But old low-mark units can actually become useful chaff now if you upgrade other units in their same fleet (they then get progressively cheaper).
  • The entire method for scouting has been replaced, and is a lot more direct and progressive, rather than encouraging needless micro like the old system did.  But you do still have the power to directly scout things, or set up pickets, thanks to some hacks involving nanites.
  • We redid all the fonts, the entire post processing stack, and upgraded the unity engine twice.  There were a bunch of bugfixes in their changes, too, among them finally a fix to the stutter from the garbage collector.
  • There have been loads and loads of balance tweaks, and general ui usability improvements that are just plain too numerous to list.
  • The galaxy map itself is also more attractive and a lot more legible at the same time.
  • Did we mention the AI is way smarter?  Like… it’s not a small thing.  Badger was busy all over the place in that part of the code.
  • There’s a new “crippled” mechanic for your centerpiece ships, which is far preferable to things like them going back to neutral and then you having to do a corpse run.
  • Did we mention lots of bugfixes?  All sorts of them.  It’s been over two months, after all.
  • A new knockback mechanic has been added, thanks to WeaponMaster, and it includes a lot of special features that the first game never had.  Including even things like implosion-style knock-inward effects for some ships, etc.
  • The AI hyper-alertness has been toned down, making it so that stealth on AI planets is actually something you can do now.
  • Certain ships now have the ability to grant a bonus to all the ships in their fleet, helping make fleets even more unique and combinatorial.  We haven’t done a ton with that yet, but the mechanic style is cool and we plan more of it.
  • You can now see your metal outflows by clicking the metal resource part of the top header.
  • Oh, you can also choose from a number of different planet naming styles in the lobby now, to get very different feels of galaxy.
  • And did we say the AI was smarter?  Yeah, it also has some major improvements to how it handles reinforcements and responding to you when aggro’d.
  • …and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff, way too much to mention.

We’re basically in a state where there are definitely still some things that I will feel a lot happier when those are done, BUT this is by far the strongest version of the game yet in my opinion.  And wherever there may be weaknesses or oversights, either those are things that are on the very short term schedule (such as noted above in this release notes) or things that we might not be aware of and hope you’ll tell us about.  In some cases it has simply been a matter of adding lobby options to support different playstyles, such as a desire for fewer hero units, things like that.  There may also be some things that aren’t explained as well as they should be or are nonobvious, and I hope that you guys will ask those questions to I can get those into the in-game wiki or otherwise address them in tooltips contextually or what have you.  Exciting times!

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

Problem With The Latest Build?

If you right-click the game in Steam and choose properties, then go to the Betas tab of the window that pops up, you’ll see a variety of options.  You can always choose most_recent_stable from that build to get what is essentially one-build-back.  Or two builds back if the last build had a known problem, etc.  Essentially it’s a way to keep yourself off the very bleeding edge of updates, if you so desire.

The Usual Reminders

Quick reminder of our new Steam Developer Page.  If you follow us there, you’ll be notified about any game releases we do.

Also: Would you mind leaving a Steam review for some/any of our games?  It doesn’t have to be much more detailed than a thumbs up, but if you like a game we made and want more people to find it, that’s how you make it happen.  Reviews make a material difference, and like most indies, we could really use the support.



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